Frank Vilsack

More about Frank

In the process of this journey, I met wife, got married in Vegas, and have 2 beautiful girls and 1 more on the way. She co-owns a childcare center with her sister, which we all take part in operating and we photograph amazing weddings together on the weekends. Again, family is at the center of everything that we do. When we're not working you can find us making the most of it with our kids weather it's chillin at home, going on a getaway, or just exploring outside looking for something cool. 

I used to take on most weddings that would inquire if I was available. Now with a busy family life and a stronger perspective I operate a little differently. Not all photographers are the same and not at all weddings are the same either. Over the years I've realized where I shine and where I don't and what makes me excited to wake up and start my day. My favorite weddings are the ones where everything is just flowing organically without the need to make everything perfect... because honestly it already is. There's a saying I borrow from one of the greats and it's "as it happened." I want you to remember your wedding as it actually happened and not by some random photographer you hired and told you what to do all day. Thats weird. 

This might sound like a crazy concept but I encourage everyone to disconnect from the internet, unsee everything they've seen and think they're supposed to do, Truly ask themselves what they want their wedding day to look like and how they want to remember it. You might surprise yourself.

How it started

I quit my day job 15 years ago to be a full time musician and photographer. Pretty crazy. I actually have a pretty great story about it and would love to share it for anyone willing to listen. I think it's important to understand me better to know where I come from which completely shapes the person and photographer I am today.

I've worked many intense general labor jobs in construction, roofing, painting, building decks, framing houses, whatever you can think of. These have taught me the value of a dollar, how to do just about anything, and to fear nothing. My dad taught me that if I want to completely remodel my house without any experience all I have to do is try.. and maybe read a book about it. My grandparents worked in steel mills, built brick roads and car engines, and probably more jobs than they'll be appreciated for. At the core of it all was working hard to support their families.  I will forever have a blue collar work ethic.

The job I quit to pursue the arts full time was working for IKEA. I started in the warehouse because thats where I thought I belonged; on a forklift. Turns out I was way better at customer service, a skill I didn't realize I had. I worked a week in Portland, OR to open a new store and it forever changed my life. I visited some amazing places, met great people, and truly experienced traveling alone for the first time. It made me rethink my entire life and open up my mind to new ways of living.  I knew I wanted more of this. Fast forward a few years and I moved to Tampa, Fl to build up and open another store. This was the craziest year of my life with all kinds of ups and downs. I would always take my camera to work because there were so many cool things happening and I just wanted to document all of it. After work was full of dinners and outings and even just solo hikes in the woods and at the beach, which of course was all camera worthy. Eventually I would buy a better camera from a fellow employee and things moved quickly after that. I became close with the marketing manager and she invited me to document all the fun events IKEA was doing to promote the new store. This included events with the Tampa Bay Lighting at their hockey games and in our store for meet and greets. I couldn't get enough of it. I was up for a promotion at IKEA to transfer into a management position that would come with a raise I desperately needed to continue to afford living in Florida. I didn't get it. I totally botched the interview. I was so mad at them. In hindsight it was the best thing to ever happen to me. I quickly learned I'm not good at interviews, working in a corporate setting, or managing people. At the same time back in Pittsburgh, I was fortunate enough to have my uncle working full time as a DJ who was trying to plug me in to the wedding scene. I wasn't super into it, but kept the window open. I eventually did a few weddings and corporate events with his company and for the first time I felt like I was onto something big. I would fly back and forth from Tampa to Pittsburgh picking up photography and music work while maintaining a full time job at IKEA. Being a musician already, I bonded with a few musicians friends who worked at IKEA, and they invited me to photograph one of their shows that featured another popular artist at the time. This would be my first time shooting a concert so I was little nervous. There were a handful of other photographers there too and I remember they were so kind to me. They made sure I was able to get my shots and we actually chatted a good bit. Sure enough the Tampa newspaper printed the article featuring my photos. My first show ever got published. I was hooked. This eventually lead to photographing hundreds of more concerts. Even to this day there's no place I'm more comfortable than being granted an all access to pass to a concert and be free and document it as I see it. Eventually I transferred back to IKEA Pittsburgh as a part time employee just for a little while I sorted out my life moving forward with a camera and a guitar. I left Tampa with almost triple the amount of anyone in positive customer reviews, accolades, trainings, and whatever other merits that said I was a great employee in my department. This is where my blue collar ethic comes in and says if you do a job, do it right. Being kind to everyone comes back to you and you never know what's waiting for you around the corner.

I was 20 when I first photographed a wedding. Probably way too young. But by the time I had started getting serious with photography I was 25 and most of my friends were getting married and having kids. It was divine intervention. Through great friendships I ended up photographing most of my inner circles lives which led to many more circles of people. The whole time I thought I was just doing some friends a favor and having fun but in the end I was creating a whole new business for myself. I'm eternally grateful for everyone that took a chance on me and invited me in.

I don't photograph weddings for the pretty flowers or table settings. Not for the designer gowns, planning and social trends although I do love pretty things and it sure helps make a wedding have a better atmosphere. I'm drawn to weddings because of people. Having all your people in one place, celebrating the ritual of 2 families becoming one... it's a big deal. And in the end, the photographs are all that's left.

How it's going